It’s fair to say no fantasy football league format has risen in popularity more in the past few years than dynasty. With more and more fantasy managers jumping headfirst into dynasty leagues, allow this to serve as a bit of a primer regarding what you’re getting yourself into. And I mean that in the best way possible.
The goal of all fantasy football leagues remains the same regardless of format: Put together a roster that scores the most points possible.
In dynasty fantasy football leagues, you’re not redrafting your team each season. Instead, you will draft your team at what is known as the initial start-up draft. Once that draft is complete, you have your roster, and those players will remain on your roster for the entirety of their careers unless you cut or trade them.
I know what you may be thinking: “What do you mean by ‘never ends’?’” The fantasy football season goes from September until early January. After Week 17, a champion is crowned, and the season ends. That’s correct, and that isn’t going to change. What is different about dynasty fantasy football is your role as a manager doesn’t stop once the NFL season hits Week 18.
Of course, you will not be actively managing your team 365 days a year. With that said, you can make trades and, in some leagues, roster moves 365 days a year. There are periods throughout the NFL offseason where not much goes on, but you are free to negotiate and execute trades whenever you want.
Your league commissioner may pause activity for a stretch, but typically, trades and roster moves reopen sometime between NFL free agency (which occurs in mid-March) and the NFL Draft (which occurs the final week of April).
The main appeal of dynasty fantasy football is the ability to make moves and improve your roster even when no football games are being played. The allure is in getting to act like a real general manager, building your team from the ground up.
There are dozens of different league formats, settings, and rules for dynasty fantasy football leagues. I certainly could not even dream of covering all of them in a single article.
Let’s go over the most basic tenets of dynasty leagues. Be on the lookout for future articles that cover specific league settings as well as the differences between dynasty leagues and redraft leagues in more detail.
League and roster size
The most common leagues will have 12 teams. That’s certainly not a strict requirement. There are plenty of leagues out there with 10, 14, or even 16 teams.
The number of teams typically impacts the roster size. With more teams, you will likely have fewer roster spots. Regardless of league size, though, dynasty rosters are quite large. They typically range anywhere from 20-30 players.
Initial start-up draft
Another common thread across all dynasty fantasy football leagues is the initial start-up draft. This draft is just like any redraft league you’ve ever done.
It will either be in a snake or auction format. You will draft your roster knowing that these are your guys indefinitely. If it seems like the start-up draft is extremely important, that’s because it is. How you go about drafting your team will set the stage for what you do over the next few years. In future articles, I will discuss different strategies you can implement in your initial draft. It’s not as simple as just picking the best players for the upcoming season.
Depending on when your league has its initial start-up draft, that year’s rookies may or may not be part of it. Either way, after the first season, the only draft you will have each year is a rookie draft.
Typically, the rookie draft is linear, just like the NFL Draft. The team that picks first in the first round will pick first in every round. In most leagues, the draft order is determined by the reverse order of the final standings. It’s formatted that way because the goal is to allow the worst teams to have the best chance at turning their franchises around.
Rookie drafts are usually five rounds and consist of the players from that year’s NFL Draft class. Some leagues include free agents in their rookie drafts, but most just allow veteran free agents to be added and dropped throughout the year.
I prefer rookie drafts to occur after the NFL Draft, but this is by no means a requirement. Your league is free to do whatever it wants. If that means scheduling the rookie draft before we know where these players will be playing, it just creates a different challenge. There are pros and cons to every decision your commissioner makes.
The in-season play is no different than any other fantasy football. Assuming your league is a traditional head-to-head format, you will have your weekly matchups, then the playoffs, and someone will be champion.
What’s enticing about dynasty leagues is the thrill of always being able to play. One of the main reasons I play in anywhere from 8-10 leagues every season is because I love fantasy football and want to be able to play the entire year. If I played in just one league and my team was very clearly terrible by midseason, that’s it, I’m done.
In dynasty formats, you can always do something. If your team is good, you get to play to win. However, even if your team is bad, you can start to look toward the future. You can make pickups geared toward stashing players that might increase in value during the offseason. You can trade away older established players for younger players with more upside. The best part about dynasty fantasy football is the constant ability to play.
Let me preface this next statement with this: I love watching football. Yet, my favorite part of fantasy football is August. It’s the pre-draft process. I love diving into data and information on players to make the best predictions possible about what they will do in the future. Dynasty fantasy football allows you to not only do that throughout the season but reap the benefits tenfold when you get something really correct.
If you read through this and decide it’s not for you, that’s perfectly fine. I’ve played in all different types of fantasy football leagues, and traditional redraft remains my favorite. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for dynasty leagues. There are plenty of people out there that can’t get enough of dynasty fantasy football. If you feel up to the challenge, give it a shot, and you may just fall in love.